In The Apocalypse, John the Evangelist speaks in the past, because at that time was shown to him a vision of that which had already happened. He says: “And a great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
This sign appeared really in the heavens by divine disposition and was shown to the good and the bad angels, in order that seeing it, they might subject their will to the pleasure and the commands of God. They saw it therefore before the good ones chose the good and before the bad ones had turned to evil.
It was as it were a mirror of the wonderful perfection of the handiwork of God in creating human nature. Although He had already revealed this perfection to the angels in making known to them the mystery of the hypostatic union, yet He wished to reveal it to them also in a different manner by showing it to them in a mere Creature, the most perfect and holy which, next to the humanity of our Lord, He was to create.
It was also a sign for the assurance of the good angels and for confusion of the bad, since it manifested to them that in spite of the offense which was committed, God would not let the decree of creating man be unfulfilled, and that the incarnate Word and this Woman, His Mother, would please Him infinitely more than the disobedient angels could ever displease Him.
This sign was also like the rainbow, which appeared after the flood in the clouds of heaven, as a guarantee that even if men should sin like the angles and become disobedient, they were not to be punished like the angels without remission, but would be furnished with salutary medicine and remedy by this wonderful sign.
It was as if God said to the angels: I will not chastise in the same way the other creatures which I call into my existence, because this Woman, in whom my Onlybegotten is to assume flesh, belongs to that race. My Son shall be the Restorer of friendship and the Pacifier of my justice; He shall open the way to the felicity, which sin would close.
“And there was seen another sign in heaven; and behold a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns; and on his head were seven diadems, and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth.”
Thereupon followed the punishment of Lucifer and his allies, for after uttering his blasphemies against the Woman, who had been symbolized in the heavenly sign, he found himself visibly and exteriorly transformed from a most beautiful angel into a fierce and most horrid dragon. He reared with fury his seven heads, that is, he led on the seven legions or squadrons of all those that followed and fell with him.
To each principality or congregation of these followers he gave a head, commanding them to sin on their own account and undertake the leadership in the seven mortal sins, which are commonly called capital. For in these are contained the other sins and they constitute as it were the regiments that rise up against God. They are the sins called pride, envy, avarice, anger, luxury, intemperance, and sloth. They are the seven diadems with which Lucifer, after being changed into a dragon, was crowned.
This is the punishment with which he was visited by the Most High and which he acquired as a return for his horrible wickedness for himself and for his confederate angels. To all of them were apportioned the punishment and the pains which corresponded to their malice and to the share which they had in originating the seven capital sins.